Monday, June 25, 2012

Singapore Chronicles - We hit Orchard Road

I'm assuming you've read the last two posts on our singapore trip. Actually, probably not. The reasoning being that if you had, you wouldn't have come back. So here's a little recap.
1. We decide to go to Singapore.
2. Visa procedure easy.
3. N Shenoy and family make it past Singapore immigration despite the head of the family looking like a member of the Chicago underworld on his passport.
4. Some random theology.

When I finally rounded up the second post, which you wisely avoided reading,  we were at Changi, local sim cards in hand, looking to head  into the evil city. Though missus tells me calling Singapore an evil city is not unlike referring to Ms. H. R. Clinton as a dusky seductress.

"Is there a pre-paid taxi counter anywhere around?" I asked the lads

"No, sweet" the missus piped "I told you a dozen times on the flight we're taking a train"

And indeed we were. The missus, who has serious extra-sensory powers, led us to a railway station somewhere in the interiors of the airport and shooed us into a jolly decent little train. It soon filled up with people but there was virtually no pushing and shoving, which felt a little weird, like I was in the middle of a lot of holographic images of humanoid creatures. I nostalgically reminisced about our locals, where you could rely on a chap to dig his elbow into your sternum as he scratched himself, burp into your airspace just as you're inhaling, or atleast step on your feet. Here were about a hundred people standing virtually still and unconnected to each other despite being really close. A bit like those discrete intervals our statistics lecturer used to ramble on about.

Rambling, rambling. Get a move on, Naren. Right.

"Get off, get off!" I woke up to some deft prodding in the anterior ribs. I stumbled out with the bag in my charge. "Sleepy head! Why didn't you sleep on the flight? And where did you learn to sleep standing in that disconcertingly equine way?"

'Annie once taught us how to sleep on the front bench in school without being caught. You put your elbows on the table like this and hold your head in your hands, like you're in deep thought, and then..."

"Isn't this place remarkable? Wow! Look! Ferrari car outside!" hoping for brief respite while the lads ran towards the exit.

I got a glare from the missus and a disappointed whine from the lads who found no car remotely resembling a Ferrari

"Annie wouldn't know a Ferrari from a camel's rump" said the missus, by way of mollification.

"Annie, Annie, do you know the difference between a camel's rump and an ATM machine?"

"Er, no.."

"Oh, then you'd have to be really careful drawing cash in Rajasthan"

"hahaha" went a little chorus

I sighed and decided to concede the point. Presently we reached our hotel, which turned out to be bang above the railway station. I performed my designated task of shuffling up to the chaps behind the desk, concluded the form filling and card swiping ritual......

And landed up on Orchard Road.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

General rambling, but read on, includes theological gems-Part II

Let me first apologize for misleading you  in the earlier post (assuming you've read it. You haven't, you say? Sound chap! Well here's a summary. I called it "General rambling, but read on, includes theological gems", in which I recounted how we went off on a fairly impromptu vacation to Singapore. I had intended to add one bit of theological reasoning that I was the recipient off but didn't because I sort of fell asleep while writing. I intend to remedy that today...)

To continue the tale, we cleared Singapore immigration in record time. This must be the world's friendliest passport control.

In India, whenever we leave or enter, the chap across the immigration desk looks askance. Questions are asked in the most incredulous way possible ("You want to WHAT?!" "Go  WHERE?!" "Coming back WHEN?!"), and the chap, who is evidently trained in this, rolls his eyes in a disbelieving fashion and lets you pass only after summoning all the goodness inside him. None but the brave emerge without their inner garments soaked in cold sweat.

The lady at the counter in CHangi didn't ask any of us a word. Not even me, and my passport clearly carries a photo of me looking like an international criminal.

"Go and find out where we can get a local sim card", commanded the missus, who had now taken over  complete command and awarded herself emergency powers, "while I freshen up".

The boys and I scooted off in three separate directions. Changi airport was looking like the convocation center for Indian Parliamentarians Who Have Passed the Decent Behaviour Test, that is to say, completely empty. Which was unsurprising because it was 6 am Singapore time.

The missus returned all freshened up and found the three of us running around the airport like headless chickens.

"Silly boys!. Can't you see that sign there?" and pointed us to a large kiosk bearing all the telltale marks of sim card salesmanship. You know, smiling people, images of phones and joyous revelations of the enormous sums of money to be saved. We sheepishly went thither and purchased our phone cards.

And here, before I forget, is one of the theological gems gleaned. I was having a conversation with the older son who, having gone through a long season of exams and entrance tests, is a strong believer while I'm a bit of an atheist.

"God does not exist" I told him confidently, after a longish discussion on what god would do to people who eat non-veg on tuesdays. We were both agreed on the fact that god would do nothing, he because he believed god was a cool dude who would surely see how uncool it was to have no nonveg days in the week while I held the view because I was convinced he didn't exist

"How can you be sure?"

"Where is the evidence? We only have hearsay, right? Chaps who have seen or spoken to god and then told the rest of us about it. No hard evidence, no?"

"Yes Annie, but what if suddenly god were to emerge tomorrow and show himself, what happens to your theory?"

"He wont. He can't"

"Why not?"

And the chap was right. How did I know he didn't exist? All I knew was he probably didn't. I couldn't be sure.

And, as is customary when working out involved threads of thought like the aforementioned, the old bean began to throb.

"And even if God doesn't exist, he can get things done" said the lad.


"You know what 'i' is, no?"

"The ego? The self?"

"No Annie. 'i'. The square root of minus one"

"Oh THAT i. What about it?"

"You know why it is called an imaginary number?"

"Yes, because there is no number which can be squared to give a negative number. So?"

"And yet we use it to solve all kinds of mathematical problems, do we not?"

"Er.. yes...."

"So what difference does it make whether god exists or not if he can solve problems?"

I'm still looking for a suitable response to this one.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

General rambling, but read on, includes theological gems

It is well known in elite circles that Shenoy N has lost it. Not that he was the brightest of lamps in the incandescent bulb showroom but still. To make matters worse, I've also lost whatever little ability I had to write coherent posts. But then I thought to myself, why should that stop me? Rhetorical question, in case you didn't get it, the correct answer being "it shouldn't"


We went to Singapore, the brood and I, this being a long overdue vacation. The missus was showing subtle signs of nervous breakdown. She would laugh and cry simultaneously, for instance, and at least on two occasions, passed by handbag shops without going in. This was turning out to be serious.

To make matters worse, the government of India, bless its little heart, was going out of its way to triple check and verify our passports which we had sent for renewal. "Check it thoroughly, boys, this is important!' went the cry around the passport office. The result was that we got them nearly a month and a half late, putting us out of contention for vacations to the more discerning and narrow minded countries which insist on long incubation periods for visa applications.

"Singapore!" suggested a friend. "It's the friendliest place in the world. Just fill out your visa application form , seal it with a kiss and two working nights later, bingo!"

And indeed, it did bingo. They didn't actually send a bottle of champagne and a bouquet but the delight in the Singaporean High Commission was unmistakable. "Come at once, love and xxx" said the visa letter, "and come as often as you like till  May 23rd, 2014, for visits not exceeding thirty days at a time. You won't spoil it by working, we hope? No, you won't! We knew. Well, hop on to that flight and come on over, the party is just starting". The Tamil representative in their office added a comforting "ComeOffRa".

The missus, in the meanwhile, had decamped to Mysore with the boys, leaving me alone and lonesome in this heartless city. I told her so.

"Nonsense. You will be partying the moment I've left"

"You always judge me harshly"

"Yeah? And what is this I hear about a tweet up happening Saturday evening?"

"Er, nothing is confirmed. Just a couple of guys..."

"Oh have fun dear. Just pulling your leg" and with that she pinched my cheeks, cheerily told me not to drink too much ("You blather in the most embarrassing way when you do") and disappeared into the terminal.

It was left to me to do all the remaining paperwork. Book hotel, buy tickets, things like that. I managed to mess it up of course, by completely forgetting to do it, but resourceful missus was resourceful. She tied up the thing through a jolly efficient travel agent and the papers, taking a leaf out of Mohammed's mountain policy,  more or less came to me.

We had a weirdly timed flight, resulting in us reaching Singapore on a bright Monday morning when our bodies were telling us it was Sunday night. None of us had slept on the flight, of course. The boys because the flight had Super Mario as the inflight entertainment. I because the flight attendant looked like she'd take it personal if I said 'no' to her offer of alcoholic beverages, and the missus who had latched on to some kind of bollywood tearjerker.

We staggerered out - I should say I staggered out. The others walked in straight lines - into the immigration and sailed through it in an impressive two minutes........ (to be continued)